Once in a while you read something that makes you stop. What makes it exceptional is the words. Not written by the hand but by the heart. Indeed, anyone who has been in a similar situation will recognise the fact that the writer must also have been there too. That is its power.
And so, my friend and colleague Mr Craig Evans very kindly allowed me to post his thoughts on this blog. He generously opines:
The moment that re shaped the way I look at life came at just age 10. I was with my parents attending a prospectus evening at the school I would go on to attend, Baines school, Poulton-le-Fylde. We sat next to another family, who I had never met but by chance both of my parents knew the parents of the boy they had brought to see the school. His dad Lawrence had been at my dads school & my step mum had dated one of his friends when she had been younger. They chatted away & of course I was introduced to Lawrence’s son, Lewis Crookall. How could I have known that this chance meeting & our subsequent friendship would have such a profound impact on the rest of my life?
So it was, that Lewis & I started at Baines & of course having already been introduced we acknowledged each other & as time passed became close friends. We had rare common ground in that we had both been brought up in an “only child” environment living with our respective dads & step-mum (although Lewis did have a half brother & sister living with his mum). Lewis was one of those people that you only meet on very rare occasions; he was “larger than life”! Physically, he was as “strong as an Ox” and loved his sport. I would call for him on my way to school & we would cycle together. We would do circuit training & basketball training before school & then he would call for me in an evening so we could attend the athletics arena to train some more.
However, his physical prowess was only a small part of his makeup; He had the most enormous personality, he could light up a room with his humour & he had a heart of gold. Anyone who ever met him would claim to know him, because he was that type of character but those that knew him well, would also know that he was intelligent (he wanted to be a solicitor) & had real sensitivity.
So, aged 14 I remember getting a horrendous throat infection & at the same time Lewis collapsed at home. I remember telling my parents about Lewis & we all assumed that the pair of us had picked up a bug. Unfortunately, this was not the case…
Tests showed that Lewis had a brain tumour, which he described as “the size of a 10pence piece”. Everyone at school was really shocked, but Lewis made “light of it” & tackled his radio therapy with vigour. As his tumour cleared it was found that his cancer had spread & yet Lewis battled on through Chemotherapy with a smile on his face.
Now aged 16 I remember my parents sitting me down & telling me that they had spoken to Lawrence & that unfortunately Lewis’ brain tumour had returned & that it was terminal. It was a lot to take in at such a young age, but I just knew I needed to go to see him. It is one of the most vivid memories I have through my life…
I spent the whole journey there trying to think about what I would say & arrived with no words. I went into Lewis’ bedroom where he was led on his bed holding hands with his girlfriend Elaine. Lewis was as “bright as a button” as usual ,but as I sat next to Elaine, he said ,”This is it Ev, I am going to die”. I replied, “I know Lou & I’ve thought about what I was going to say, the whole way here & have come up with nothing”. I remember Elaine crying & whilst Lewis held one of her hands I grabbed the other. Of course, Lewis soon changed “the tone”, made light of the situation & we sat laughing & joking. Lewis had made the situation quite easy & when I had to leave he followed me into the landing to show me out. We hugged & this was the point I “broke down” I sobbed my heart out & Lewis just hugged me harder & told me, “don’t worry everything is going to be fine Ev”! Lewis’ strength still amazes me! When I left Lawrence came outside to check I was ok, but it is fair to say I sobbed all the way home!
I visited Lewis every day up to the day before he died, when it was obvious he should be surrounded by his family. The funeral passed by our school where all the students & teachers lined the road side, “our year” did a guard of honour outside the packed church. It was a fitting yet poignant tribute to a short but incredible life/personality.
Apart from Lewis’ unbelievable heroism throughout his ordeal the things a remember most are how amazing his parents Lawrence & Marilyn were both with the love & care they showed Lewis but also with the care they showed to his friends visiting. Also how they all talked about how amazing Christie Hospital was throughout Lewis’ illness.
So, how did this change my life? Well, I learned that life is here to be lived to the absolute maximum. Tell the people you love, exactly that & leave nothing “on the table”, because you never know what is round the corner?
Hence, 22 years on Lewis is still inspiring me! Last February I couldn’t run 1/2 mile without stopping. I’d let negative influences creep into my lifestyle & had got complacent & lazy. Since, I have stopped smoking & started training again….6 days a week! So from half a mile; next April (13th) I will run 26 miles in the London Marathon. In doing so I have pledged to raise more than £2000 for Christie Hospital & will do so in the name of Lewis & all those around me that have also been touched by cancer. I should mention that, tragically, Lewis’ half brother Fraser Olufojude also lost his battle with cancer as a teenager…. Fraser was also extremely popular amongst his peers & an accomplished sportsman. As family we have lost two dear friends over the last 12 months…..but on a positive note I have a number of colleagues & friends who have battled successfully against cancer (or are currently bravely facing their illness) and I have been lucky enough to have my dad, mother-in-law & sister-in-law all have successful battles with disease over recent years.
I am enormously proud to be representing Christie Hospital, Europe’s biggest cancer centre, who apart from the care they provide are one of the worlds leading research centres & have been for more than 100years. Hence, no matter where you are in the world; if you have been touched by cancer either personally, through family or friends, Christie Hospital is likely to have contributed in some way to the treatment/care received. So I would ask you to dig deep & sponsor me in my quest to complete The London Marathon & help make a difference to cancer sufferers everywhere.
To echo Craig’s thoughts and aspirations I have respectfully added a link which certainly I have found a great help and I hope you will too. Craig challenged to find himself and it is up to us to find ourselves. Peace and love.
Invest in YOU.